Nikita Koloff (born Nelson Scott Simpson on March 9, 1959) is a retired American professional wrestler,. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, he wrestled as "The Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff, which was a play on the nickname of fan favorite "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes (in fact, it was Rhodes who gave him the nickname).
Nikita was brought into the National Wrestling Alliance by his "Uncle" Ivan to prove Soviet superiority. Their ultimate goal was to dethrone NWA World champion Ric Flair. A physical marvel, Koloff was also hailed as the Russian Road Warrior. He was billed from Moscow in the Soviet Union, and then from Lithuania after the fall of the Soviet Union.
1977 graduate of Robbinsdale High School where he was an All-conference receiver. Simpson played college football at Golden Valley Lutheran College before transferring to Moorhead State.
National Wrestling Alliance
Simpson suffered an injury playing football but rehabbed to play for Moorhead State University where he suffered another career ending injury.
In 1984, Simpson was going to try out for the USFL when Road Warrior Animal, a professional wrestler from the Minnesota area, called him to ask him to become a professional wrestler. Simpson decided to go with wrestling and was told to shave his head bald and to show up. Jim Crockett, Jr., the promoter of the NWA's Jim Crockett Promotions, renamed him Nikita Koloff, the Russian Nightmare, and teamed him with "uncle" Ivan Koloff and Don Kernodle, a turncoat American. Koloff debuted in 1984 with barely any training at the time and won his first match in 13 seconds, with the only edict from Crockett being that should Koloff trip on the ropes, he would be fired on the spot.
While he learned more about the sport on the road with Ivan and Kernodle, Nikita was booked in very short matches until his skills developed. During television promos, Nikita would stand behind Ivan and Kernodle with his massive arms folded while they did interviews. As his wrestling ability and interview skills grew, so to did the length of his matches and interviews. His improvement negated the need for Kernodle to continue teaming with Ivan and, shortly thereafter, the Russians turned on the American turncoat. Nikita went to great lengths to keep the "Evil Russian" gimmick as realistic as possible. He even learned some Russian and refused to come out of character, even when away from the ring.
With Kernodle out of the picture, Uncle Ivan introduced a new comrade named Krusher Khruschev. In December 1984, Jim Crockett awarded the Russians with NWA Six-Man Tag Team Championship. Three months later, on March 18, 1985, Nikita and Ivan defeated Dusty Rhodes and Manny Fernandez to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship. Ivan, invoked the Freebird rule, which dictated that any two of the three could defend the Tag Team Titles. Ivan and Krusher lost the titles to the Rock 'N Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) on July 9, 1985.
Nikita continued to improve and became a big enough heel to get a match against NWA World Champion Ric Flair at a The 1985 Great American Bash card on July 6, 1985. 32,000 fans packed Charlotte Memorial Stadium to witness the event. Nikita ended up losing to Flair and was even attacked by a fan during the match, but he established himself as a superstar in the wrestling business. It was shortly after Nikita's first main event, which drew tremendous heat, that Vince McMahon first approached with an offer to leave the NWA for the burgeoning pastures of the WWF. McMahon promised Nikita an immediate push, suggesting either a program with Tito Santana, during which he would win the Intercontinental Championship, or a program with Hulk Hogan that would culminate the following year at WrestleMania 2. Nikita turned him down, believing the massive push that had been booked for him in the NWA, namely the planned feud with Magnum T.A. would give him greater leverage down the road to secure a more lucrative contract with McMahon.
Nikita & Ivan went on to regain the NWA World Tag Team title from the Rock 'N Roll Express three months later on October 13, 1985, but lost them back on November 28, 1985 at '85 in a cage match.
In spring of 1986, Nikita started one of the biggest, most anticipated feuds in the history of Jim Crockett Promotions when he attacked NWA United States Champion, Magnum T.A.. Following a brawl with Nikita at a match contract signing, Magnum T.A. was stripped of his title. The two were then booked to in a best-of-seven series, which took place during The 1986 Great American Bash tour. The winner of the series would be declared champion. Koloff and T.A. wrestled all summer and ended up tied after six matches with one no contest. The final match took place on August 17, 1986. In a hard fought match, which featured run-ins by Kruschev and Ivan and several false-finishes. Nikita defeated T.A.to win the title.
The following month Nikita defeated Wahoo McDaniel to unify his US Title with Wahoo's NWA National Heavyweight Championship on September 28, 1986. He was readying to embark on a feud with Ron Garvin that would last through the upcoming Starrcade 1986. The idea of head booker Dusty Rhodes was for Nikita to reignite his feud with Magnum T.A. the following year. The plan called for T.A. to defeat Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship at Starrcade 86 and after a short program of rematches with Flair, T.A. would then begin a long program with Nikita that would run through the Great American Bash Tour of 1987. As of the beginning of October, Rhodes had not decided whether or not to give Nikita the title at some point during the feud.
In October 1986, Magnum T.A. was involved in a career-ending car accident, when his Porsche crashed into a telephone pole. T.A. survived but his future in wrestling was in doubt. Dusty Rhodes saw an opportunity amidst the accident. The Soviet Premier [[Mikhail Gorbachev had been growing in popularity throughout the country with his political reform of Glasnost and Perestroika. The era of evil, Russian heels was coming to an end. Rhodes decided to strike while the iron was hot, booking Nikita to become a face and his greatest ally against the dreaded Four Horsemen. The historic moment took place on October 24, 1986 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dusty needed a partner to take Tully Blanchard and James J. Dillon in a cage match. The fans in Charlotte erupted when Nikita entered the cage to help Dusty. This evening secured Nikita as one of the top faces in the NWA.
Immediately after his face turn, Nikita resumed his quest for Ric Flair's NWA World Title and came very close to winning it on several occasions. Flair's Four Horsemen comrades bailed him out almost every time. The two fought to a double disqualification at Starcade '86 on November 26, 1986. After Starrcade, Nikita was firmly established as one of the NWA's most popular stars, which made him an even more inviting target for Vince McMahon. His first offer having been rebuked, McMahon made a bid for Nikita's services that dwarfed his earnings from Jim Crockett. However, this time McMahon could not give him the WWF Intercontinental title (which was already promised to Ricky Steamboat, nor could he give him the Wrestlemania III main event with Hulk Hogan (which would be his historic confrontation with Andre the Giant). Instead McMahon could only offer Nikita a program with Jake "The Snake" Roberts and the promise of a major push. Nikita again declined.
Throughout the early months of 1987, Nikita continued to defend the United States title against a litany against members of the Four Horsemen and Paul Jones' stable, which now included "Uncle" Ivan. On April 11, 1987, Nikita and Dusty Rhodes won the second annual NWA Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament defeating the Four Horsemen team of Tully Blanchard and Lex Luger.
As the 1987 Great American Bash tour got under way, the feud between Nikita, Rhodes, The Road Warriors, and Paul Ellering versus The Four Horsemen and J.J. Dillon was booked as the centerpiece. The tour was bookended by two revolutionary matches, created by Dusty Rhodes, known as WarGames: The Match Beyond. The match consisted of two rings wrapped in a steel cage. A member of each team started the contest, after which the teams would alternately add participants, until all ten men were in the cage. After that the winner was determined by submission only. The team of The Superpowers and The Legion of Doom emerged victorious in both contests.
Also during the 1987 Great American Bash, as part of his ongoing feud with Ivan and Dick Murdoch, Nikita's neck was "injured" by a Murdoch brainbuster on the concrete floor. The worked injury set up the pretext for dropping the US Title to Lex Luger in a cage on July 11, 1987 after Luger used a chair. Dusty Rhodes booked Nikita to rebound quickly, winning NWA World Television Title from Tully Blanchard on August 27, 1987.
In the fall of 1987, Jim Crockett Promotions acquired Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation. Dusty Rhodes decided which members of the UWF roster to retain and how best to use the infusion of new talent that he now had access to on an exclusive basis, beginning with a cross-promotional program between NWA Television Champion Nikita Koloff and UWF Television Champion Terry Taylor. The feud began when Taylor, alongside his fellow members of Hot Stuff International- Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner- attacked Koloff and stole his championship belt. Koloff and Taylor were booked to face each other in a unification bout at Starcade 87, but Nikita vowed to get his TV belt back before the match. During a TBS World Championship Wrestling broadcast in the weeks leading up to what would be Jim Crockett's first foray into pay-per-view, Taylor and Gilbert jumped Nikita again, beating him unconscious, and draping his version of the TV title across his limp body. On November 26, 1987, Nikita Koloff and Terry Taylor battled in what would be the only NWA/UWF unification bout at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. In front of his first pay-per-view audience Nikita became the undisputed Television Champion by defeating Terry Taylor on November 26, 1987. He still has the UWF belt today as a trophy from that epic night.
In December 1987, Vince McMahon came calling yet again. The prior financial offer was increased once again and this time Nikita was promised an immediate program with The Honky Tonk Man, in which he would win the Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania IV. McMahon had already booked Ted DiBiase to win the WWF Championship in the tournament at Wrestlemania. The plan McMahon had come up with called for Nikita to make a run-in to save Randy Savage, when Andre the Giant and DiBiase attacked him after the match. In his ensuing feud with DiBiase, Nikita would win the WWF Championship. Once Hulk Hogan was ready to return from his movie hiatus, Nikita would turn on Savage and join up with DiBiase to take on Hogan. After hearing McMahon's offer, Nikita seriously considered the offer, going so far as to discuss his options with Rhodes and Crockett. Just before he was ready to sign with McMahon, Nikita heard from a source at the WWF that McMahon was deceiving him. Koloff would not be pushed anywhere above mid-card status, where he would be forced to job to the company's top heels, beginning with Rick Rude. What McMahon really wanted from Nikita was one of Jim Crockett's top stars with which he could use as a punching bag to show that his product in the WWF was superior to Crockett's NWA.
Nikita stayed in the NWA, only to be de-pushed due to his perceived disloyalty, losing the NWA TV Title to Mike Rotunda of the Varsity Club on January 30, 1988. During this period, Koloff had altered his appearance somewhat, dropping some weight and growing his hair out into a crewcut. Nikita was given the singles main event when he wrestled NWA World Champion Ric Flair at the final Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. He then lost to Barry Windham in the finals of the tournament for the vacant NWA United States Championship, before beginning a feud with Al Perez and teaming with Sting to feud with the Four Horsemen.
In the fall of 1988, Nikita was quickly losing interest in pro wrestling due to personal reasons. After Ivan himself turned face when manager Paul Jones turned against him, Nikita helped Ivan briefly against Jones' henchmen, the masked Russian Assassins, and then he took a sabbatical on November 27, 1988.
American Wrestling Association
Eventually, Koloff eased back into the business part-time in late 1989, wrestling for Verne Gagne in his native Minnesota, as the result of a business deal between WCW and Gagne. The promotion was in its twilight and with Nikita's stature, Gagne positioned Nikita to challenge then AWA World Heavyweight Champion Larry Zbyszko almost immediately. Koloff wrestled in the AWA for the remainder of the year and the for first half of 1990, headlining numerous television broadcasts and Twin Wars 90, the last major event for the AWA under Gagne.
World Championship Wrestling
After legally changing his name to Nikita S. Koloff (he never did like his given name), shaving his head again and going back to his old Russians-era look (although now billing himself from Lithuania), Nikita returned to WCW on February 24, 1991 at WrestleWar in Phoenix, Arizona to attack Lex Luger. He claimed that Luger stole the title from him in 1987 and he wanted it back. Luger did steal the title (he was a heel then), but now Nikita was the heel. He went after Luger for the next couple of months and at SuperBrawl on May 19, 1991, accidentally hit Sting with a chain during a tag team match between Luger-Sting and the Steiner Brothers, starting his next feud. Nikita defeated Sting in a Russian Chain Match at The Great American Bash in Baltimore, Maryland on July 14. The feud would continue through August, but before the program was finished, Nikita disappeared again to run his gyms, which were called "Nikita's Fortess of Fitness" in North Carolina.
Nikita returned to WCW in April 1992, this time as a babyface to save Sting from an attack by the Dangerous Alliance. He explained on WCW's syndicated shows, he saw the error of attacking Sting. He was going after Lex Luger and Sting accidentally got in the way. Because of the explanation, the fans were happy to see him return. Nikita joined Sting and his team (also including Rick Steamboat, Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes) against Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyzsko, and Bobby Eaton in the War Games at Wrestle War '92 on May 7. Koloff was booked in a program with Rick Rude for the WCW US Title. Late 1992 found him feuding with another big man, Vader, who ended Nikita's in-ring career with stiff clothesline to the head outside the ring in a match at Halloween Havoc. The blow resulted in a herniated disk in Nikita's neck.
Nikita became a born-again Christian in 1993 and started to travel world wide with his ministry. He also runs his own small wrestling promotion, the UWA as an outreach of his ministry.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
Nikita made a few appearances for NWA:TNA in 2003 as a masked man called "Mr. Wrestling IV" who attacked Dusty Rhodes. He finally unmasked but ended up helping Rhodes against the Sports Entertainment Xtreme stable.
On July 15, 2006, Nikita Koloff was inducted into the Lou Thesz/George Tragos Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, at the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Newton, Iowa, as that year's recipient of the Frank Gotch award for contributing to the positive public image of wrestling.
Championships and accomplishments
- National Wrestling Alliance
- Frank Gotch Award
- PWI ranked him # 113 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003
- PWI ranked him # 64 of the best tag teams of the PWI Years with Ivan Koloff
- PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year award in 1987
- PWI Feud of the Year award in 1987: The Super Powers (Nikita and Dusty Rhodes) and The Road Warriors versus The Four Horsemen
- UWF Television Championship (1 time)
- Nikita has written two books: Breaking the Chains (ISBN 1-57090-107-4) in 2000, which is a Christian Living guide and Wrestling With Success (ISBN 0-471-48732-5) in 2004 along with Jeffrey Gitomer, which is a guide to positive thinking in life situations.
- Book about Christian Wrestlers: Wrestling With God, 2001, by Chad Bonham.